Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Umar Burley

Other Baltimore City Exonerations
On April 28, 2010, 39-year-old Umar Burley pulled his car to the curb in the 3800 block of Parkview Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland. He was picking up his friend, 36-year-old Brent Matthews, so they could go to court to support family members who were testifying at a sentencing hearing for a man who killed a relative.

However, as soon as Matthews got into the car, a vehicle pulled in front of his car and another car pulled up behind, bumping Burley’s car and boxing him in. Men got out of both cars with guns in their hands and wearing masks.

Fearing they were about to be robbed, Burley quickly managed to maneuver his car into the street and speed away. The men got back into their cars and began chasing Burley.

Not long after, Burley collided with another car at an intersection. The driver of the other car, 86-year-old Elbert Davis, suffered fatal injuries, and his wife, Phosa Cain, was seriously injured. Matthews and Burley fled from their vehicle. The men chasing them pulled up and caught them. That’s when Burley and Matthews learned that the men were Baltimore police detectives wearing plain clothes and driving unmarked cars. During the chase the officers did not activate any sirens or flashing lights.

Once Matthews and Burley were placed under arrest, one of the detectives, Wayne Jenkins, ordered a search of the car. The officers reported finding 32 individually-wrapped packages of heroin, each weighing one gram.

Burley was charged with vehicular manslaughter. He and Matthews were also charged in federal court with possession with intent to distribute heroin.

On June 10, 2011, Burley and Matthews pled guilty in U.S. District Court to the drug charges. Burley was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Matthews was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison.

On August 10, 2011, Burley pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter in Baltimore City Circuit Court. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison to be served concurrently with the federal drug sentence.

On September 3, 2013, Matthews was released from prison on supervised release. On February 3, 2017, Burley was paroled on his manslaughter sentence and transferred to a federal prison to complete his drug conviction sentence.

In March 2017, a federal grand jury indicted Jenkins and seven other Baltimore police officers on charges of framing defendants, robbing people they suspected were drug dealers, and other corrupt acts. The indictment said the men, who were members of an elite team called the Gun Trace Task Force, had been planting guns and drugs, and lying on arrest reports for years.

At that time, Burley and Matthews learned that on the day of the crash, Jenkins ordered one of the other officers on the scene to call a sergeant to ask him to bring the “stuff” to the scene. According to the indictment, the officer kept a stash of narcotics to plant on people.

When the officer arrived, Jenkins took 32 grams of heroin and planted it in Burley’s car. Jenkins then ordered another officer, Sean Suiter, to search the vehicle. Other officers present included officer Keith Gladstone and Sgt. Richard Willard.

Because they were under arrest, Burley and Matthews did not see Jenkins planting the drugs. Both had pled guilty because they were convinced that no judge or jury would believe them over the officers.

Jenkins, the leader of the Gun Trace Task Force, was convicted—as were several other officers. Jenkins was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Gladstone pled guilty in 2019. As of December 2020, he had not been sentenced. Another officer involved in the planting of drugs in Burley’s car, Sean Suiter, was fatally shot in November 2017, the day before he was scheduled to testify before the grand jury investigating the corrupt officers. The death was declared a suicide, but Suiter’s family believed he was murdered to keep him from testifying.

On December 19, 2017, federal prosecutors asked that the drug convictions be vacated and the charges against Burley and Matthews were dismissed. Burley was then released from prison.

On April 9, 2018, the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office asked that Burley’s manslaughter conviction be vacated and then dismissed the charge.

In June 2018, Burley and Matthews filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking compensation from the city of Baltimore for their wrongful convictions. Both men were granted certificates of innocence in March 2019, clearing the way for them to seek compensation from the state of Maryland. In November 2020, the city of Baltimore agreed to pay compensation of $8 million to Burley and Matthews. Burley was to receive about $6.275 million. Matthews was to receive about $1.722 million.

As a result of the convictions of the officers, more than 2,000 convictions in which they were involved were called into question. By early 2019, more than 300 convictions had been vacated and dismissed.

In 2023, the Baltimore Board of Estimates agreed to pay $6 million to settlle a claim brought by the family of Davis and Cain.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 6/6/2019
Last Updated: 3/1/2023
County:Baltimore City
Most Serious Crime:Manslaughter
Additional Convictions:Drug Possession or Sale
Reported Crime Date:2010
Sentence:15 years
Age at the date of reported crime:39
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No